Would you ever turn down an inheritance?

Your first reaction might be “Of course not!” But don’t speak too soon. Most estate plans are created at least in part to protect heirs (generally spouses and children) from the sometimes devastating blow of estate taxes; but with the estate tax in a confusing state of flux this year some of these plans won’t work as their creators intended—and heirs may end up looking for a way to protect themselves against the unintended consequences of well-intentioned estate plans.

 With the threat of the return of the estate tax in 2011 for estates valued over $1,000,000, the surviving spouse of a person dying this year may now have good reason to consider a timely disclaimer.  Doing so may eliminate tax as assets pass on down to the couple’s children.  For more information on how this works, see our article entiled “Repeal of Estate Tax May Warrant a Fresh Look At the Use of Disclaimers To Avoid Death Tax”

Although the use of a Disclaimer may be a good solution in some cases, there are no easy general answers to the question of whether you should exercise the right of disclaimer.  Much will depend upon the state of the estate tax law at the time of your loved one’s death.  One thing is clear, however:   most people would be well advised to include the option of disclaimer in their trust or wills, “just in case”.   If you have any questions whatsoever about an inheritance—or about your own estate plan—contact your elder law or estate planning attorney for help.